Category Archives: Brunch

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink
8 Raffa Place
Carlton
Vic 3053
+61 3 8060 6987
The Vertue of the Coffee Drink on Urbanspoon

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If Melbourne is renowned for laneway secrets and excellent coffee, The Vertue of the Coffee Drink is one the best representations. Hidden behind the Shell petrol station off Lygon Street, what seems to be a narrow opening suddenly enlarges into a brilliant well-planned café space. Sparkling coffee machine, check. Beaming coffee roaster, check. Giant printout of one very wordy coffee advertisement, check. Delicious well-poured coffee, triple check.

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My first visit to this concealed Carlton café took place when my brother’s family visited sometime in March. We were done with the magnificent Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show and were famished, so we went to check the place out. After I had knocked back one very smooth and rounded magic, we got down to the business of filling our tummies.

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(Left) Scotch Egg, smoked pork belly, pig skin cracker, piccalilli mayonnaise, onion marmalade, brioche soldiers $21
(Right) Chickpea Chips with charred asparagus, preserved cherry tomato and basil salad, shaved parmesan, poached eggs $18

The menu is clever and creative, quite a far call from the usual brunch items such as eggs benny or smashed avo. Instead, there’s scotch eggs, which my Sister-in-law took a liking to, and chickpea chips which were calling out to me (in hangry halicunation).  The former was an indulgent porky platter of belly and crackling. Apart from the salty meat, the rest of the dish was spot-on. My dish was a vegetarian number involving crisp yet fluffy chickpea chips, sweet sweet roasted cherry tomatoes and charred asparagus. Had the poached eggs been taken out of the heat a second or two earlier, it would have made for a perfect brunch dish.

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Smoked Fish Chowder, Old Bay spiced squid, Port Arlington mussels, quail egg, barbequed corn $18

My brother ordered the seafood chowder, an item from the lunch menu. It was rich with seafood flavours and cream and had a generous serve of par-cooked vegetables that added crunch to the soup.

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Magics $4 each

The Angmoh felt left out and so we visited a week later. He enjoyed the coffee so much that he ordered 2 that very morning. We also got to sample a couple of sweet treats that were supplied to the café. The Butterbing peanut butter chocolate chip cookie is incredible in terms of texture. Brownie-macaron cookie is how I’d describe the cookie to be, with its crisp shells harbouring an insanely rich fudgey center. Take 2 of said cookies and smear in a rich decadent peanut butter filling and you have one helluva dessert. I also made do with a Kwak cinnamon scroll that originates from Oregono Bakery in Sydney. Smothered with a mountain of icing sugar, it was dense and chewy but could use a little chopped apple or raisins in its layers.

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Chocolate peanut butter cookie

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Kwak cinnamon scroll

The Vertue of a Coffee Drink is pretty much what Melbourne café culture embodies: hipster name, hidden location, excellent coffee and alternative delicious brunch fare.

 

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Filed under Brunch, Carlton, Coffee, Sweets

Miss Jackson

Miss Jackson
2/19 Grey Street
St Kilda
Vic 3182
+61 3 9534 8415
Miss Jackson on Urbanspoon

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Brunch at Miss Jackson took place one Saturday morning with me finishing a CrossFit WOD and then jogging 2 suburbs south, while The Angmoh, Peach and Luigi all rocked up after tumbling out of bed, bushy-eyed and much less sweaty.

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(Left) Long black $3.80
(Right) Iced coffee $6

Peach had a long black, while The Angmoh, not being a fan of Allpress beans, found a way to indulge in an espresso-based drink that morning. He ordered an iced coffee and the generous glug of milk and vanilla ice cream helped masked the chemical aftertastes of the beans.

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(Left) Potted avocado with goats cheese, a poached egg and pumpkin bread, with house cured salmon $20
(Right) Corn fritters with bacon, avocado and roasted vine tomatoes and house made chilli jam $16

Service was quick despite a bustling weekend morning. Peach had the potted avocado and poached eggs on pumpkin toast. The avocado came as described, pale green and moussey-smooth. Luigi’s corn fritters were lovely with all the elements working well together. The tomatoes were literally bursting with flavour and Luigi’s white top unfortunately bore evidence of that.

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Potato and leek hash with smoked trout, a poached egg and smashed peas $18

The Angmoh and I usually do not order the same dish. Our brunch preferences swing in opposite directions, with him enjoying generous meaty breakfast platters while I lean towards vegetarian options that included eggs and shrooms. That morning, though, we both ordered the smoked trout on peas with hash. We both agreed the hash needed more crisping up, but the overall dish was tasty and fulfilling. I particularly liked the liberal sprinkling of herbs like dill and parsley. It provided a lovely refreshing lift to the dish.

Miss Jackson is a stalwart café in St Kilda. With pleasant, decent food, it’s a reliable brunch option for the local residents needing a good feed.

 

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Filed under Bayside, Brunch, Coffee, St Kilda

Addict Food and Coffee

Addict Food and Coffee
240 Johnston Street
Fitzroy
Vic 3605
+61 3 9415 6420
Addict Food and Coffee on Urbanspoon

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Brunch at Addict happened after the Booos and I returned to Melbourne after our Bhutan trip. We had had enough of sautéed veg in soy or oyster sauce and were hankering for a good decent Western brunch that included words like ‘sourdough’ and ‘poached’.

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(Top) Seasonal blend piccolo latte $3.80
(Bottom) Single origin Ethiopia Bulga piccolo latte $4.20

We zipped to Collingwood to check out Addict after having seen delicious tempting photos on Instagram. As we perched at the window seats watching the traffic on Johnston Street pass by, Fakebooo and I indulged in our coffees. Having gone coffee-free for the past 2 weeks, our first sips of Melbournian-coffee went down a treat with eyes-closed appreciation. Fakebooo’s Ethiopian single origin tasted of milk chocolate while my seasonal blend had notes of berries and biscuits. Yum.

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Corn fritters with kasundi, haloumi, poached eggs and a coriander and mizuna salad $18

Fakebooo had corn fritters, a Melbourne brunch classic. This was a dish loaded with flavour, with Middle Eastern spices in the fritters, sweetness from the corn and the haloumi and fetta providing some savouriness. The generous serve made Fakebooo’s tum very satisfied.

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Potato hash and mushroom duxelles with roasted field mushroom, a poached egg and caramelised onion $18

As for Fakebooobooo and I, we both had our eye on the mushroom on hash. The potato stack was a good inch thick with lovely crisp edges, topped with a buttery soft roasted field mushie and a gooey poached egg balanced on the peak, making one hell of a delicious tower. All the elements worked harmoniously, especially the sweet caramelised onion balancing out the salty mushroom duxelle.

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Having been deprived of Melbourne food for a few weeks, Addict certainly ticked all the boxes, satisfying our craving for quality brunch food and making us feel right back at home.

 

 

 

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Filed under Brunch, Coffee, Fitzroy

Nora

Nora
156 Elgin Street
Carlton
Vic 3053
+61 3 9041 8644
Nora on Urbanspoon

Nora

Fakebooo selected a café for one of our Thursday brunch sessions: Nora. He had yet to sample the famous charcoal-based tarts and promptly needed to rectify that.

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We stepped into the small-spaced café in Carlton and fell in love straight away. It was stark, it was clean, it was cute and the only the presence of the open kitchen and coffee machine prevented the café from appearing like an art gallery.

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Piccolo latte $4

As Fakebooo sipped on his decent Small Batch coffee, we contemplated the menu. It was hard to decide when everything sounded so interesting and alluring. In the end, we made our choices: “Dear Mitchell” for me and “Pig from the Ground it’s Raised From” for Booo.

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Pig from the ground it’s raised from – bacon, scallop, mushroom, watercress & taro puree, radish $18.50

If you thought the names of the dishes belonged to a degustation menu, wait till you see the plating! Fakebooo’s dish was just too beautiful to eat. The taro puree was a gentle smear at the rim, with the zucchini and radish artfully arranged to hide the slab of bacon steak. The taste of the dish was just as amazing. The pork was tender and full of flavour and topped with dehydrated scallop flakes that provided sweetness. The raw vegetables gave a refreshing green taste to counter the richness of the meat and the smooth taro paste bound it all together.

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Dear Mitchell – eggs our way, house chilli dressing, shallots, salted shrimps and Thai greens $14.50

Although my dish didn’t appear quite so pretty, it was bloody tasty. The beaten eggs were cooked in a 62 degree fashion, making it softer, more wobbly and more gelatinous than its boring steamed cousin. The dressing of sweet chilli and dried shrimp pumped up the flavours, giving simultaneous little bursts of sweetness and umami. The Asian vegetables of green papaya, Vietnamese mint and spring onion provided a little rawness and a little crunch.

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Both our dishes came with a side of wombok and a brown muffin. The wombok was glazed with house-made Thai curry paste, which confounded both Fakebooo and I. It just didn’t seem to go with either of our dishes. The bread on the other hand was well-received. It turned out to be a very eggy Yorkshire pudding-like bread, and it served well as our carb component to our brunch mains.

I loved everything about Nora: from goggling at the (t)art on display, to sipping on sweet tingly sparkling water (did I mention it’s free!), and awakening my tastebuds with the playful but delicious food. What about the tarts you ask?

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Charcoal tart – lychee, cheddar, Vegemite $5

This time, I tried the lychee, cheddar and Vegemite tart. The odd combination of ingredients meshed well in a pungent, sweet and salty manner. I liked it, although the true-blue Vegemite-lovin’ Aussie Angmoh refused to take a bite.

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Filed under Brunch, Carlton, Coffee, Modern, Sweets

Tana Cafe

Tana Café
36 Church Street
Hawthorn
Vic 3122
+61 4 2196 5656
Tana Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Fakebooo and I brunched at Tana Café on one of our RDOs. It’s a small space with a Japanese-inspired menu that offers wholesome breakfast options. You can vouch on how healthy it is when yogis spill over from next door after completing their sun salutations and what not.

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House made sweet green tea matcha latte $4

Instead of coffee, we had matcha lattes that morning. It comes pre-sweetened but only mildly so. Rich with anti-oxidants and frothy with milk, it was a delicious drink and made for a delightful change from our usual caffeine fix.

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Organic tofu salad – organic silken tofu, lettuce, raisin, walnuts, sesame and soybeans served with house made Japanese ume (pickled plum) dressing $12

The menu focuses on light breakfast and lunch meals, with some dishes having a Japanese twist. I chose one such dish, an organic tofu salad drizzled with their house-made dressing of pickled plum (or ume). It was perfect. The alfafa with its grassy notes, the raisins and their sweetness, the almonds and their crunch and the gentle silky tofu came together beautifully. The dressing was slightly sweet, slightly tangy, faintly bitter and just so freaking good that it stunned Fakebooo into muttering out a mangled remark “I love the marination!”

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Vegetable burger – avocado, boiled egg, mashed potatoes, tasty cheese, tomato, apple sauce, caramelised onion, lettuce, alfafa, beetroot and dukkah $11

Fakebooo chose the veggie burger, which he remarked to be one of the best he’d come across. It was a mashed potato patty, topped with boiled egg, beetroot, cheese and caramelised onion, nestled between buns that had been slathered with smashed avocado. It made for one very healthy, very messy but very delicious burger.

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Croque monsieur  – miso flavoured bechamel sauce, tasty cheese, ham, caramelised onion, whole grain mustard and sourdough bread $7.50

Being greedy guts that we are, we decided to order another dish to share. We were intrigued by the croque monsieur due to its miso béchamel sauce. The miso couldn’t be detected due to the strong tastes of mustard and cheese but it still made for a decent sandwich. I particularly liked the use of caramelised onion; it provided a sweetness which offset the cheese.

Brunch at Tana was enjoyable. The food was light and nourishing and the café a humble abode. For those needing a change from heavy brunches, I suggest giving Tana café a go.

 

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Filed under Brunch, Burgers, Hawthorn, Japanese, Matcha

Ora Cafe

Ora Café
156 Pakington Street
Kew
Vic 3101
+61 3 9855 2002
Ora Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Fakebooo invited me along to brunch with his colleagues one day. Since we used to work together and we were all in the same industry, I decided to crawl out of my well and do some socialising. The venue was Ora, which both Fakebooo and I last visited at least 2 years ago (on separate occasions). I remembered that the brunch fare was excellent and Fakebooo enjoyed it too, commending the coffee.

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Piccolo latte $3.80

Ora occupies a small space and patrons spill over onto the pavement to dine along the narrow strip. Fortunately for us, we managed to get a table inside and avoided the initial fat raindrops, followed by warm dense humidity. The menu is small but unique with interesting dishes incorporated from Asian flavours, such as sesame prawn toast and spiced tiffin eggs. The coffee is from a roaster I’ve not come across: Maker, and that morning, Fakebooo and I enjoyed our piccolo lattes made from Ethiopia “Konga”, a single origin which boasted notes of blueberry, florals and peach. The blueberry was indeed prominent on the first taste, which mellowed softly into the summer sweetness of the stone fruit.

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(Top) Mork hot chocolate $4
(Bottom) Chai $4

Roen, Jac and Jean carpooled to get to the café and as soon as they arrived they swiftly ordered their drinks. Hot chocolate for Jean, a chai latte for Jac and a citrus fizzy for Roen. They too settled quickly on their food choices and once our order was placed we got cracking with our exchange of gossip and ranting. The kitchen service did take a little while but our conversations had us killing time anyway.

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(Right) 2 scrambled eggs on sourdough $9, add The Melbourne Pantry bacon $5
(Left) prawn toast – sesame, avocado whip, lime, egg $20

Roen and Jean customised their breakfasts with a simple eggs and bacon on toast, with Roen getting his egg poached and Jean opting for scrambled. Jac had the prawn toasts which, I assume, Ora borrowed the idea from the popular yumcha dish. Unlike the petite dim sum version, Jac’s dish came as a thick sandwich. While I thought the combination of poached egg, avocado mousse and prawn toast a little odd, Jac apparently didn’t find any fault and devoured it without complaint.

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(Left) Salmon gravlax – lime, beetroot, cucumber, rye $17, add poached egg $3
(Right) Beetroot on toast – goats curd, beetroot crisp, torn egg $17

Fakebooo’s brunch of rye bread, house-cured salmon with added poached egg was delicate and a perfect dish for summer. I couldn’t go past the combination of beetroot with goats cheese and the beetroot chips were a wonderful way to add texture to the dish.

Ora turned out to be just as good as I’d remembered. Portions while not gargantuan, are not stingy either and the food reflects a well-thought blend of ingredients and flavours.

 

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Filed under Brunch, Chai, Coffee, Kew

A Hangry 4 week Clean-eating Challenge

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I live to eat. And when I deny myself food, it’s because I don’t want to eat it and not because I can’t eat it. I’m not one to fall for fad diets and I have participated in a couple of food challenges. There was once where I subjected myself to no sweets for one week. This ended up with me almost biting The Angmoh’s head off by Day 7. I’ve also joined Fakebooo for “Live Below The Line”, which you can read about our experience here. Recently, I embarked on a 4 week clean eating challenge organised by my crossfit gym and it put me in an extremely uncomfortable place. The rules were simple: eat real food, period. It was not 100% paleo (as many crossfitters are) and there’s some flexibility as to how strict you want to restrict yourself to certain foods. The big no-nos were refined carbohydrates (such as flour), refined sugar, processed foods and alcohol. Small amounts of dairy and complex starches (such as rice and legumes) were allowed.

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Sashimi salad

And that’s not the end of it. There’s Fran. What’s Fran, I hear you ask. Well Fran is not the sexy sultry pouty nasal-sounding lady we all adore. In the crossfit world, she’s one bitch of a workout. It consists of 21 thrusters and 21 pull-ups, followed by 15 thrusters and 15 pull-ups, ending with 9 thrusters and 9 pull-ups. It generates a crap-load of horsepower and leaves you collapsed in a messy wheezing heap of sore thighs, arms and an audibly pounding heart, ready to burst out of your chest. And Fran is the benchmark for the challenge. Do it on Day 1, train hard and eat well over the next 4 weeks and do it again on Day 29. And it’ll be awesome if you can up your weight, rely less on assisted bands for pull-ups and do it in a faster time.

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Gluten-free banana pancakes, maple, peanut butter

I wasn’t aware of any of this when I was casually asked if I’d like to partake in this madness. “Challenge accepted” I stupidly readily agreed and found out all of this on the very first day of the challenge, having missed the briefing due to work. Not one to tuck tails, I hopped on the bandwagon, completed Fran and on wobbly legs, headed home to plan my meals for the days to come. My eating rules were: no refined carbs, no refined sugar, no alcohol, no processed foods and no cheese. I allowed myself small amounts of rice or potato and small quantities of milk and yoghurt. As I wiped away a tear, I bade farewell to Beatrix and Jocks.

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Combi – chia parfait

There was no weaning period for me. I quit sugar cold turkey. Day 2 into the challenge, the headaches hit. Desperate for a lick of something sweet, I fell back on fruit and bananas became my best friend. My meals consisted of protein and vegetables and once a week, I indulged in a bowl of rice.

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Oven-roasted fish on wilted vegetables, topped with a pine nut crust

I thought it was going well until Monday of week 2. My day involved a simple lunch of roasted cauliflower soup, only to end with a workout of more thrusters. Bad food mistake, I simply had no energy to lift and was left physically and emotionally exhausted. It also made me panic because that meant I was going to suck big time at the impending Fran. Wiser eating choices had to be made.

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LBSS – kumara, kimchi, poached eggs, cashew cream

As I progressed into week 3, my mood swings were more volatile having PMS and I took my frustration out on The Angmoh. My coach even remarked that I was more tired than usual. But I did not let it get to me. I turned up at every possible work out and trained at least 5 times a week. I made better eating choices and started including more rice into my meals. I noticed I was no longer craving processed desserts when colleagues at work brought in an insanely rich chocolate cake and I had no inclination even for a taste of it.

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Pana rose chocolate, Strawberry matcha cake, Chocolate ganache

Not to say I didn’t have any sweets over the past 4 weeks. I’d go insane and The Angmoh would have dumped me lickety split. My sweets consisted of the raw variety. There was raw cheesecake from Patch and raw chocolate from Pana. These desserts contain natural and raw ingredients, such as cashews, coconut and agave. Eating out was tricky so I used the challenge as an opportunity to check out Little Big Sugar Salt, Combi and Raw Trader.

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Roast pork belly with roasted fennel and apple puree

My meals varied from the simple vegetable soups to the fancier roast pork belly with apple puree and fennel. There were the usual paleo players of zucchini noodles and cauliflower rice. The Angmoh made me oven roasted fish with a nut crust, on a bed of wilted vegetables. On one of the weekends, instead of brunching out, I threw together a simple summery salad of sashimi, leaves and tomatoes, dressed in a lemon and wasabi dressing. Some mornings, I indulged in a homemade gluten-free breakfast of banana pancakes, drizzled with maple and topped with natural peanut butter. Throughout the 4 weeks, I continued practising Meatless Mondays and relied heavily of spuds or rice for energy. My snacks at work were Corn Thins smeared with hommus from “The Pure Produce Company” or peanut butter by Mayvers.

The downside of the challenge is that I miss my comfort eating like slurping up pasta coated in bolognaise or biting into crisp chewy sourdough. Social occasions can be lonesome when you are at a pub drinking water while the boyfriend nurses a chilled beer. The initial rocky start of being hungry and tired all the time evened out over the weeks as my body adapted and I made smarter food choices.

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Raw Trader – Chai cheesecake

The upside of the challenge is that I was never alone. My crossfit buddies shared their experiences regularly and this provided great comfort. The Angmoh endured throughout my challenge and not only cooked food to suit the challenge, but ensured I had enough to eat all the time. (He did pig out on a pizza on the very last weekend while I munched on a salad but I forgive him.) I also discovered new and fun places to eat at and fell in love with raw desserts. I started reading food labels more carefully and now think twice before putting an item into my shopping basket.

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Semi-raw carrot cheesecake

On the last day of the challenge, I put together a semi-raw carrot cheesecake (gluten, dairy, egg and sugar-free, oh and recipe soon to come), had a delicious kimchi bibimbap for dinner and tucked myself early into bed. Fran 2 has been done and dusted. Not only did I manage to up my weights, I smashed my time by more than a minute.

I’ll be honest. If ever approached to do another restricted diet challenge, it is highly likely I’ll think twice before saying yes. But I’m glad I did complete this one as it has made me more aware of what I put into myself and I am keen to continue practising a lifestyle of minimal sugar and processed foods.

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Filed under Brunch, CrossFit, Food Challenge, Paleo, Raw, Sweets, Vegan